Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sensational!

Raised by a retro Ted and a woman infatuated with 'Elvis the Pelvis'; it was rock n roll, 'The King' and The Beatles that made up the incidental music of my early life.

The first music I discovered for myself - and it really was mine as my parents hated it - came through accessing contemporary pop.
Fortunately the pop music of the time was very, very exciting; especially to those like me, in a state of burgeoning pubescence.

Sweet and Slade - as well as Suzi Quatro, but for somewhat different reasons - were the bands who totally enthralled me.

They puzzled me: they were odd, strangely theatrical, a little scary, but they could really belt it out; and they were fantastic.

Even then, in my state of innocence, I realised that they weren't 'puffs' as the old man would have it; no, these guys were very much 'men': blokey men; there was nothing effeminate about them.
The members of Sweet and Slade were obviously blokes who dressed up, whereas Marc Bolan wasn't.
Bolan was Bolan.
Brian Connolly and Noddy Holder were very different animals.

'Brickies in drag' was a common description from the time, and in a way, it was kind of fitting; not only were they obviously blokes, but they were working class blokes.

(Slade's film, Slade in Flame - a rock film Mark Kermode (credible British critic) considers to be the best in its genre - delineates the band's working class roots effectively: shot in a naturalistic socio-realist manner, it makes for the most downbeat, Ken Loach styled rock movie you'll ever see.
The band even insisted on getting Johnny Shannon (a real life gangster turned actor who first came to attention in his role as Harry Flowers, the Mr. Big who hunts down Chas in the film Performance) to play the crooked manager, adding to the film's strong but bleak verisimilitude.)

But at the time working class men didn't wear eye liner; nor did they wear groin high, flesh hugging, silver stacked boots; something was being challenged; and it didn't have much to do with sexuality.

There has always been a tradition within the working classes to use gender play as an act of subversion.
It was there in music hall, variety and penny operas.
But the idea, the concept, has its roots in radical politics.

Members of The New Model Army would often 'drag-up' before ambushing Royalist supporters in the street. The idea being that the Cavaliers would be humiliated because it seemed they were being duffed up by women.

The Rebecca Rioters, those who tore down toll gates in nineteenth-century West Wales, were aggrieved agricultural workers who donned womens' clothes while attacking the oppressive taxation on the freedom of movement.
They also covered their faces in soot - one wonders if that was purely to disguise themselves or to add an extra humiliation to the land owners of the time: not only to be overpowered by 'women', but 'black women'.

Of course Dave Hill never blacked up - although I'm sure if he'd thought it might have shifted a few more copies of Slayed he may have done - but Slade were very quick to change their image in an attempt to gain attention.

Encouraged by the mercenary and Machiavellian managerial tactics of Chas Chandler, they moved from their psychedelic rock look (while Ambrose Slade) to a skinhead look.
Chas thought it was going to be the next big thing.
They played a few skinhead venues apparently, but as soon as Jim Lea got his violin out to fiddle along to their version of 'Martha My Dear' [!] the audience would bottle them off.
Not surprising really.
I mean, just look at Dave Hill in this pic.
Does he really look like a skinhead?

So they grew their hair long, again, changed their clothes and jumped on the glam-bandwagon.
And I for one am ever so glad they did.

(Although it must be said, my favourite album of Slade's is Play It Loud (1970), the album where they are represented as a skinhead band; but it's more of a hard rock nuggets styled album; there's certainly no ska or Oi!
And they'd thankfully dropped 'Martha My Dear' [probably brought back nasty memories...].)

Sweet came to Glam from a slightly different angle.
They'd been playing around with garage styled pop for a few years, but became lighter and lighter, ending up in bubble gum territory.
It was only after several line-up changes that the band found a sound they could actually sell, and before they knew it they were cutting edge: massive.

Not that it did them much good.
Another working class attribute they adopted was live fast and... well, you know the rest.

Slade, however, did manage to keep it together, although Noddy retired from music - concentrating on his nuts and various panel games and chat shows - stating that the business was bent: run by crooks and gangsters; begging the question: how real and autobiographical was the representation of the business shown in their movie?

Anyway, here's a couple of great shows from both of the bands' peak periods; proving that these outfits were a lot more than merely fronts for studio based products.
They could really do it.

Man, I'd hate to be an adolescent now.
Have you heard the state of pop lately?

Sweet - Berlin Blitz (recorded: 1976; release date unknown)

CD rip to mp3s.
Get Sweet here

Slade - Young Vic, London, 1975 (release date unknown)

Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing
The Bangin' Man
Gudbuy T' Jane
Far Far Away
Thanks For the Memory
How Does It Feel?
Just Want a Little Bit
Everyday
O.K. Yesterday Was Yesterday
Raining in my Champagne
Let the Good Times Roll
Mama Weer all Crazy Now

CD rip to mp3s
Get Slade here

6 comments:

. said...

Urg.

Dr Hank said...

Hear hear!

roy rocket said...

It's probably a class thing
;) roy

Anonymous said...

Very good post..

roy rocket said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love their music but.... what's à horrible clothes!!!!!;)
Tow killer's bands on stage...
It's a part of my youth too that's exciting solid boogie kind of glam pub rock sound basement of the punk.
thank again
Dr Frankein$ouNd